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4 Tips for a Successful Mentor Program

Although many dealerships have tried to implement mentorship programs, the key to success is commitment. Try these tips for a successful mentorship program.

As director of Minority and Women Retail Programs at Solera/DealerSocket, Perry Watson IV oversees the company’s internal and external diversity, equity and inclusion strategies and partnerships. Perry is a former general manager and part owner of Lexus of Mishawaka in South Bend, IN. He currently serves as president of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers (NAMAD) NextGen membership.

A productive and passionate employee is one of the most valuable assets your company could ever have. Yet, most dealers would agree this type of employee is hard to find. Which is why, instead of trying to find and hire an ideal employee, dealers should establish a mentorship program that will create ideal employees.

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In a tough job market, a mentorship program will provide your dealership with a competitive edge. New employees want to succeed but may not have the skills or confidence to figure out how to be successful. Potential employees will find a mentorship program attractive because it demonstrates that their employer is willing to invest in them and will help them find a successful career path. A mentorship program is also a necessary part of a diversity, equity and inclusion program that helps to make employees feel more valued and accepted. 

Although many dealerships have tried to implement mentorship programs, the key to success is commitment. Also, try these tips for a successful mentorship program. 

1. Make it Official

A mentorship program should be established and monitored by senior-level management. First, define its purpose. If you want to increase employee retention, establish retention rates as your metric to measure. This will also provide guidance as to which departments are most in need of a mentorship program. If employee retention rates are poor in the sales department, but acceptable in service and accounting, then you might only need a mentorship program in sales. 

2. Define Goals

Document the details of your program. Employees who enter a mentorship program should know exactly what their goals are and what to expect along every step of the way. Define different levels of achievement along with a timeframe for expected “graduation” of the program. 


A tip for effective goal setting is to create SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. This helps to make it easier to track and assess progress. 

3. Match Mentors and Mentees Carefully

Many of your senior-level employees may not embrace a mentorship program if they think it will take time they don’t have. Offer incentive in the form of extra pay and perks. Also, keep it a volunteer position. Don’t try forcing senior-level employees into doing something they don’t want to.

Some of your senior-level staff may not have the qualifications needed to be a good mentor. Mentors need to have patience, good listening and problem-solving skills. When a mentee is struggling, a mentor must be able to motivate them and provide them with support and encouragement. A mentor should also be able to identify a mentee’s strengths so they can instill confidence in them.  Strong communications skills are recommended.


Make sure your mentors know what is expected of them. How much time will it take? How often will they have to meet? Regular meetings between mentors and their mentees are a must. Offer to provide volunteers with mentorship training, if they desire. 

When matching mentors and mentees, keep in mind demographic variables, common backgrounds and professional interests. Senior management should also plan to check in with mentees to see how they are progressing. 

4. Define Career Path options

New employees are typically engaged in a job until they know how to do it well. Once people master new skills, boredom can set in. Part of a mentorship program should be to define various career path options for every employee and gauge the employee’s interest and skills for each position. Then, start training employees so they have the necessary skills to achieve the positions they desire.


In today’s environment, finding and retaining productive employees can be a challenge. However, it is possible to create a mentorship program that will give your dealership a competitive edge, strengthen your culture and increase employee retention rates.

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